Detained and Abandoned: The case of Omar Khadr

Detained and Abandoned: The case of Omar Khadr″

When President George W. Bush declared war on Afghanistan in 2001, his military order stipulated that captives should “be detained, and, when tried, to be tried for violations of the laws of war and other applicable laws by military tribunals.” These tribunals would later come to be known as military commissions. Thus began the saga of Omar Khadr’s detention.

Khadr, a Canadian citizen, was severely wounded in a firefight in Afghanistan, on 27 July 2002 . Khadr, the only survivor of the raid, was captured and transferred to the US Air Base in Bagram, Afghanistan, where he was held for three months. In October 2002, he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where his trial by military commission is now about to begin after nearly eight years of indefinite detention.

Khadr was held incommunicado at Guantanamo Bay for two years. In 2004, he was defined as an “enemy combatant” by the Combatant Status Review Board. He was first charged in 2005, three years after his detention, in acordance with President Bush’s military order establishing military commissions. Khadr was accused of murdering Sgt.CHristopher Speer, a US soldier who died in the firefight, in violation of the law of war, and was also charged with attempted murder in violation of the law of war, conspiracy, providing material support for terrorism and spying.

This two-part series explores the judicial issues brought forth by the various forms of military commissions created by the Bush and Obama administration, contextualizes them within international law and discusses the legalities of the charges against Khar in part one.

Part two, set to air 29 September, deals with the moral, legal and psychological implications of Khadr’s age and scrutinizes the Canadian government’s involvement in his detention.


2 thoughts on “Detained and Abandoned: The case of Omar Khadr

  1. Thaks for this.

    Khadr wasn’t actually wounded in the “fire fight”. See the report of soldier OC-1 who shot him. The soldier saw him facing away from the action, leaning over, unarmed, and wounded by the bombing of the building. OC-1 shot him twice in the back.

    As indicated in the video, fighters like Khadr, who are not part of a regular army, or civilians who take up arms, whichever he was, are not immune from domestic law of the country they are in, as a regular soldier would be. If Khadr were to be charged at all, it should be in a domestic court, although it isn’t clear that US domestic law applies when they invade a foreign country.

    However, in Khadr’s case, because he was only 15 when he became involved in the Afghan war, sent on a mission by his father, the Optional Protocol to Convention on the Rights of the Child on Children in Armed Conflict (signed by both US and Canada) should have applied. The US had an obligation to rehabilitate and re-integrate Khadr into society. There is no reason to believe this would not have been possible when he was 15. All evidence points the other way. Nobody knows the situation now, after 8 years in Gtmo, but he deserves a chance subject to security issues.

    Khadr is, in fact, guilty of nothing other than participating in a war, into which he was illegaly recruited. Prosecuting him in any court is contrary to the law and undermines it, sets a harmful precedent. Most “child soldiers, are not recruited by lawful armies because their recruitment is illegal. Khadr is typical of a “child soldier”, except many of them, unlike him, commit REAL war crimes, as opposed to invented ones, and even atrocities.

    See David Glazier’s paper on the lack of jurisdiction of the Military Commissions and why each supposed “war crime” is not.

    OC-1’s report:

    David Glazier’s paper:


  2. Khadr is not even like a criminal 15 year old who commits some horrendous crime, possibly in part because of bad upbringing, a bad neighbourhood, or whatever.

    Khadr joined in a war for exactly the same reason millions of other young men and boys have joined in war, because the people around him were doing it and lead him to believe it was a good cause.

    The Khadr case is largely based on guilt by association.


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